At D Magazine, we believe in precision. When we say we’re going to tell you about the best nightlife spots in Dallas, we don’t just mean we’ll tell you what bars are worth your time. We want to pinpoint the exact locations within those bars where you should hunker down to get your drink on.
Table 105 has the ideal mix of shade and access to the water-spraying mister at the Best Bar Patio in Dallas. It’s also about a step and a half away from the outdoor bar (which does accept cards) and three steps or so from the entrance. From this table, you’re close enough to see the runners on the trail without being so close that you have to hear their agony. People are easily drawn to nearby table 104, but that would be be a mistake, due to its fan/sprayer proximity. After five minutes at that table, my hair is seriously dampened (and it does this weird wavy thing when it gets wet, and I can’t stand it). The Ice House believes in communal seating, so if table 105 (its number is painted on the corner) has been claimed, just smile. Though with this 100+ degree weather, people are steering clear of the patio during the day. I think that’s ridiculous. If you can’t stand the heat, order another cold beer. And speaking of beer, KTIH charges the same price for a bottle (12 oz.), glass (16 oz.), or scooner (18 oz.), so go for the goblet. You’ll feel less guilty watching runners on the trail if you see how huge your biceps are getting with every sip.
You’re going to have a decent view of the TV anywhere in D’s Best Sports Bar, but the prime seating is the long table directly to your right when you walk in. It faces the corner TV and is big enough for a party. You’ll need to be there about 45 minutes before the game to snag it, though if we’re talking about a game of Mavs’ NBA Finals proportions, a few hours will be required. Standing isn’t a viable option in the Loon because the square-shaped bar, rows of booths, and single-stall female bathroom (hello, epic line all throughout my walking space) create insane pedestrian issues. You’ve also got to keep in mind that the Loon is dark and operates with the motto that “every patron is a friend, and every friend deserves a double,” which means two things for you: 1. It’s not going to take many rounds before someone spills a little of their Whiskey Coke on you, and 2. People are likely to pair up and make use of the dark, cool atmosphere, creating additional issues if you’re standing.
Moral: Sit down, avoid trying to use the bathroom, and only order mixed drinks.
Any great dive bar should be home to a true character. D’s Best Dive Bar is home to about three. If you go to The Windmill, you’ll want to sit next to one of them. I’ve spent several hours, weekends and weekdays, inside the cold, dark bar in search of one man: Greg. There are a lot of reasons why Greg is a favorite character at The Windmill, but his recent invention of the Panini Taco (a panini filled with taco fixings, of course) might be one of the best. If he’s got a sweater on, he looks a hell of a lot like Jeff Bridges in the Big Lebowski. You’ll never know where Greg will choose to sit or what he’s going to feel like talking about. He’s unpredictable. He’s also a little upset that the Dallas Observer never mentioned him in their profile of his favorite bar.
Then there’s Clint, who one day decided to drink his way through the alphabet. Thanks to an old-time cocktail recipe book that dates back to the 1920s, and a willingness to try new things, Clint had cocktails from “A” to “Z,” (which was the Zombie and one of his favorites). He’s also a big fan of Corpse Reviver 2, though the recipe warns four taken in quick succession will undo the corpse-reviving effect. Any cocktail Clint drank at The Windmill has Charlie and Louise’s passion for fresh ingredients in it. They make their own grenadine and maraschino cherries the way they were originally made (soaked in alcohol).
The last character you’ll want to see is Tom. At 6-foot-2-inches tall, Mr. Hale is the runt of the family. He’s been coming to The Windmill pretty much since Charlie and Louise opened the place. Mr. Hale can only be described as a true Texan, and if you speak to him you’ll hear he’s got the accent to prove it. He’ll be dressed in Western attire, and he’ll be the first person to help tidy up the place at the end of the night. There’s one thing you need to know out of the gate about Tom Hale, and that’s if you’re sitting in his seat, you’re going to have to move. For his 60th birthday, a gold plaque was put on the back of his favorite chair. If you happen to make the rookie mistake (as I did my first time in The Windmill) of sitting in his chair, Louise is going to ask you to move. Tom won’t walk into the bar until you do.
Due to bad timing on my part — and recent employment changes, family illnesses, and odd sleeping patterns on theirs — I have yet to meet any of these characters. Greg’s got my cell number waiting for him on a cocktail napkin at the bar, and I’m anticipating a call. Until then, my time searching for these men has taught me that the owners of the bar are just as great of characters as the patrons that they serve, and any seat next to one of them is going to suit you just fine. Order The Louise if you go (and you’re a woman or a very secure man). The vodka, homemade strawberry puree, fresh orange juice, freshly squeezed ginger juice, champagne, and homemade mint simple syrup will make your visit memorable—even if you happen to miss Greg, Clint, and Tom.